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Living in London circa February 1941

by medwaylibraries

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Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
medwaylibraries
People in story: 
A. Bowman
Location of story: 
North Finchley
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A8092172
Contributed on: 
28 December 2005

Story edited from an interview with Mr Bowman at Gillingham Library (Kent) held on July 7th. 2005

When I was a youngster we used to get up very early in the morning to go shrapnel hunting, as all the lads did in those days. One particular night in the spring of 1941 I remember clearly the bombing of the dairy. As it was so early, there was not a soul in sight, just myself walking along the road looking for shrapnel. We had been warned to be very, very careful shrapnel hunting, and be wary of anything strange, particularly butterfly bombs. We took all this in as well as being warned about strange people in case they were Germans.

It was at 6 o’clock in the morning on this particular day, when I saw a man holding a package approaching on the other side of the lane, with his head turned away from me which I thought was odd. I carried on but when he couldn't see me, I watched to see what he was doing. He stopped and put the package down and walked on. The package he left looked like a radio, but I immediately assumed that it could be some sort of bomb, so I looked round for a parachute in case he was a German. If it was a radio, I wasn’t going to leave it there, but at the same time I was absolutely terrified, I had never been so terrified in my whole life. Thus I picked it up very, very carefully, and I walked home at the slowest pace you can imagine. I didn't knock on the front door, because my mother and my family were in the shelter in the back garden. I had to kick on the shelter door till my mum answered it. She screamed “Don’t bring it in here!” She thought it was going to go off. I still wasn’t going to leave it, so they all ran out of the shelter, and went down the road, whilst I put the 'bomb' in the shelter. When my father came home at about 8 o’clock in the morning, he carried it out and put it on the table. When he first plugged it in nothing happened, then all of a sudden there was a tremendous atmospheric ping. We both jumped, but it was just a radio after all.

Now what must have happened was: the bloke that I saw walking along had seen me, and, thinking that I might not notice, he hid the package with the intention of coming back later to retrieve it.

Anyway, my father took the radio up to the pub that night and he sold it for about eight pounds. But that’s not the end of the story. In 1947, six years later, I was sitting in the barber’s waiting for a haircut. The barber was talking to a man in the chair saying, as they all did in those days, “Did anything happen to you in the war?” The man recalled that on the night we got raided when a string of bombs fell across the dairy, his house wasn't hit directly by a bomb. But the blast from one blew out all the windows and the front door and when he went out in the morning, some little bastard pinched his radio. Think of what a coincidence that was! Six years later and I’m sitting in the barber’s at that particular time. I kept my mouth shut! Such a coincidence! I’ve re-told that story many times over the years and had a few drinks on it.

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